"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Visit to Brugg; Headed to Davos

Yesterday I went to check out the site of the 2011 World 24hr event, which just happens to be in Brugg, a short 20kms from where I'm staying right now in Switzerland.

The track is a military training track, so those hardcore guys naturally run on bitumen! And, I guess to stop them trying to escape the brutal training, they put this barb wire roll along the side of the track!

Today I'm headed to Davos, Switzerland, for the last of the European races. Way back in February I registered for this 78k alpine race. It was going to be my first race back post-surgery. A lot has changed since then!

In the last few months I found and registered for Baerenfels and had figured I would probably end up switching out of the 78k at Davos and into either the 31 or 42k trail event. But after Baerenfels fell apart, it seemed like this was my only chance left to complete an ultra in Europe on this trip.

Davos attracts the best of the best. Here's what they say about the K78 event:

78.5 km +/-2260 m
"The biggest mountain ultramarathon in the world, and the ultimate challenge. 21 km of the race is on high alpine terrain, the highlight being the Panorama Trail (a narrow and, in parts, exposed mountain path) at an altitude of 2,600 m."

The winning women include women who do 2h47m marathons and 6.5 hr Comrades! There is prize money for the top three, which may also help attract the most talented from around the world. I will just watch those women sprint off into the distance and marvel at their 4.30 pace for the first 30k all the way to Filisur (of course, by then I won't be able to see them in the distance anymore and I'll just mentally marvel at them!).

There are over 3,500 entrants for the Swiss Alpine Marathon. They have no limits on entry and have 7 different races. It's actually a week long event, in terms of day hikes, lectures, expos, and the like. Accommodation in the area has been sold out for a few months. It's going to be pretty full on for a girl who likes her nice, quiet trails with a few good mates! My event alone has over 1,600 entrants already.

I've been doing a bunch of reading on altitude training and how hypobaria actually works (there's no less oxygen in the air at 3000 mtrs than at 400 mtrs - the problem has to do with air pressure). I've decided to get to altitude (above 1500 mtrs) a good 48 hrs before race on Saturday, so that's why I'm off today. We're going to stay at a ski resort area in Liechtenstein for a few days before heading to Davos the night before the race.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When is a Race Not a Race?

When it's supposed to be training.

The Corvatsch Trophy Mountain Race

On Friday we drove to St. Moritz, about 3.5 hours south, to do this short race. I made a bit of an excuse of it being altitude and hill training, but have since been reading more about altitude training and have learned it probably wasn't very useful in that regard.

Anyway, the race was part of the Alpinathlon - a 5 stage race with road cycling, two mtb legs, and two running legs. The last leg of the race is a 10.8k "run" up 1626 mtrs to the top of the Corvatsch peak. At 3303 mtrs, it's claim to fame is that it is the site of the highest race finish line in all of Europe. Participants were allowed to register for Leg 5 as a separate event this year, which was great for me!

Unfortunately, though, there was snow on Friday night at the top, so the race course was shortened to 8k. The finish line was altered to be at Corvatsch "Mittelstation" - the middle station - at 2702 mtrs. The race organisers decided it was too risky to have racers going across the glacier to the finish at 3303. We didn't even know the race was altered until 4k in! (A problem for me not being German-speaking, as I'm sure announcements were being made that morning and it was probably all the talk around the start line).

We started at about 1780 mtrs, so got about 900 mtrs gain over 8k. Then, to get the full experience of the hypobaric air, we took the cable car up to the Bergstation at the top and had a late lunch. We took the cable car back to the bottom and then opted to run back to the car (4k) rather than take the free shuttle bus (I was obviously grumbling a bit about having my training run shortened).

The scenery was fantastic and it was awesome to watch some of the full competitors coming in after 8 or more hours of racing all day through the mountains. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by all these athletes.

It was mentally much harder than the 24 hr Sri Chinmoy race, which probably sounds odd. What was hard was making myself start at the back of the pack and to jog and hike rather than run full-out. I had to keep reminding myself that if I want to run the Swiss Alpine Marathon (78k) the following weekend, I wasn't there to destroy my legs or endocrine system. I needed to keep it more moderately paced. But allowing myself to finish in near last place was incredibly challenging. I think it was good training for the mental side of racing - running your own race and not getting caught up in what others are doing ... the "ego" side of things.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Barenfelslauf 64.8k IAU trail race (Germany)

Well, I am here in Germany, having attempted to run the Barenfelslauf race last weekend. This is my race report for my "almost" race.

Barenfelslauf is a 3 lap course (21.6 k per) with 700 mtrs elevation gain (plus 700 loss, of course) per lap. It was a really pretty, well marked forested course that sure reminded me of running in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We started about 30 minutes late because so many people turned up to register on the day. There were over 200 competitors, with probably 60% in the half and the rest in the marathon and ultra.

I was all geared up in my Compressport, had the Perp ready, and to show I was non-partisan, I was flying both the Canadian flag and an Australian decal on my hydration pack!

Unfortunately, I was pulled from the course just before I completed my second lap (43k mark at 4 hr 26 min). A half-marathoner had a heart attack at the finish line and could not be resuscitated. The police arrived and said the race had to stop so they could do their investigation. Rolf said there was a lot of angst around the finish line as they tried to determine whether they could or should continue the race.

As far as my race was going, I was on track to do 7 hrs (or slightly less). That was my goal time and it's been the women's winning time for most every year. I was leading for women when the race was halted.

An unhappy ending to the day for all.